Does your business have a Resting Bitch Face?

Resting Bitch Face, or as I prefer to call it, Resting Sneer Face (RSF), is a real thing. It describes the inadvertent communication of subtle contempt while the face is at rest, which means someone looks like they’re displeased when he or she is simply relaxing.

The problem with RSF is that it projects an unintended negative message – a “stay away from me” type of vibe.

And I believe it doesn’t just relate to individuals – it affects businesses too.

How? The way you are presenting your business to the world.

Resting Sneer Face websites

A Resting Sneer Face website is one that repulses rather than engages the visitor. Here are some of the clues you may have a RSF site. 

Don’t you know who I am?

It’s rare, but some websites neglect to include their logo or explain anything about their credentials. It’s as if they expect the visitor to know who they are.

Here’s an example from a broadband provider who has failed to visually communicate its identity.

Bri Williams

When visitors first land on your site they will be looking to see whether they’ve arrived at the place they expected. That means your name and/or professional logo on your home page is a mandatory.

But a clearly identifiable name and logo should not be confused with it being … 

All about me, not you

Where some websites neglect to state who they are, others talk about themselves incessantly. Our vision, our history, what we do …

While it is important to provide information about who you are and what you do because it helps to establish confidence and credibility, it’s all about timing. You should only talk about yourself after you’ve convinced your visitor that you understand their problem, and that means it should be written from their perspective, not yours.

Here’s an example from a business that reels off a lot of information that could be useful if only it was written from the customer’s point of view.

Bri Williams 2

Instead of talking about a fleet of couriers, it would have been better to state things like “we reach you wherever you are”, or “we can deliver your parcel anywhere in Australia”. Bring the point back to your customer’s need so they are convinced you can help them resolve their issue.

Do it because I said

Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons can be afflicted by Resting Sneer Face too. When your CTA asks people to “submit” or “sign up” without telling them what they can expect by doing so, you are in effect telling them to do it “because I said so!”

Instead invite people to click by telling them what the action does and what they receive from bothering to do so. In short, answer What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)

Bri Williams 3

Into the ether

Actions that seem to go into the ether – like emails that are not acknowledged or orders that are submitted without a confirmation – are the Resting Sneer Face equivalent of pretending that your customer doesn’t exist. You are treating them as if they are not worthy of your recognition.

Instead make sure that every action is acknowledged:

  • When your customer adds to their online shopping cart, make it obvious that the product has been included.
  • Include an auto-responder with your online enquiry form so your customer knows their message has been received and what will happen next.
  • Email or SMS an order confirmation as soon as your customer has placed it.

Resting Sneer Face customer service

Of course RSF can affect your face-to-face customer interactions as well. It may not be as overt as the treatment Julia Roberts’ character receives in the film Pretty Woman (a.k.a. Overt Sneering Face) but it can have the same negative impact.

Officious, cold, distant staff means your business has RSF. If this is a deliberate strategy of yours – maybe you are seeking to be a snob – good luck I guess. I won’t be a customer of yours. For everyone else, try to weed out RSF attitude amongst staff.

In particular look to eradicate:

  • RSF Body Language – crossed arms, staring at their hands, backs turned to customers, talking amongst themselves when customers require attention, eye rolls, lack of eye contact, headphones on at all times, and yes, phone fixation.
  • RSF Tone – do they answer the phone with a smile or sneer? Sometimes it’s not what is said, but how.
  • RSF Language – “I guess”, “I dunno”, “whatever” – dismissive missives.
  • RSF Interactions – long call wait time, queues, no greeting when a customer arrives.

The lesson is to not take Resting Sneer Face lightly. It may be silently killing your business by turning customers away for reasons you haven’t been able to explain. Now by naming it you have the opportunity to address its causes.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


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